Monday mystery-The Phantom Barber of Pascagoula

In June 1942, the population of Pascagoula swelled as increased demand for warships and supplies drew large numbers into the town. The local economy was booming, but in the long shadows of a wartime summer, something haunted the streets at night.

The man nicknamed the Phantom Barber by newspapers worked in the darkness. This was made easy by army blackout regulations, which left whole areas of the town without light for several hours at a time.  On Monday or Friday evenings, he slit a window screen to gain access to a house, crept inside, and cut the hair of sleeping occupants, particularly blonde girls. Not satisfied with only a lock or two, he sometimes pushed so far as to shear a whole head of hair. He took nothing else from the home except his prize, left his victims sleeping and unharmed.

He began with two young girls in the convent of Our Lady of Victories, followed by a six year old female child visiting another family. That time, he left a clue—the print of a man’s bare foot in sand on an unoccupied bed in the room. The police were baffled. Three hundred dollars was put up as a reward for information that might help catch the phantom. The public was in a panic. Women refused to go outside at night. Men applied for pistol permits. Bloodhounds were brought in to track the bizarre intruder, but the efforts failed.

At last, the phantom broke his pattern, or so it seemed. A window screen was slit in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Terrell Heidelburg, and the intruder came inside their bedroom. However, rather than cutting hair, he brutally assaulted the couple. Mrs. Heidelburg lost her front teeth and was knocked unconscious, while her husband was beaten with a metal bar. Both survived the attack. Two months later, the police chief announced the arrest of a suspect, William A. Dolan, a chemist, who was charged with attempted murder.

A connection between Dolan and the Phantom Barber came with the discovery of human hair allegedly found near his residence. He continued to deny he was the phantom, and while convicted of the attack on the Heidelburgs—he bore a grudge against Terrell’s father, a judge—was never charged with the phantom’s acts. Since the Phantom Barber never touched his victims other than their hair, it would seem no meaningful tie exists between Dolan and the Phantom Barber, whose break-ins ended as mysteriously as they began.

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Monday Mystery-The Phantom Whistler of Louisiana

Who doesn’t love a good mystery on a Monday? This week, our mystery is from state-side.

Back in 1950, newspapers were full of the story of the Phantom Whistler of Louisiana. The Whistler was terrorizing a young woman, 18-year-old Jacqueline Cadow. In February, Jacquelyn Cadow of Paradis, Louisiana began hearing wolf whistles outside her bedroom window at night. The home she shared with her mother was also broken into by an intruder. The authorities were notified on several occasions, but nothing became of it, even when the media became involved. Night after night, she heard the same whistles of the phantom until she announced her engagement to State Trooper Herbert Belsom. Then, the harassment grew worse, and the whistles changed to a funeral dirge. The authorities suspected a man at this time and sometimes he would follow this dirge with a “blood-curdling moan.”

Around this time, Jacquelyn also received telephone threats, the voice on the other end of the call promising to come to her home and stick a knife in her if she went ahead with her marriage. Jacquelyn suffered a collapse when she, her mother, her aunt, and a New Orleans States-Item reporter heard the whistler at work. The reporter and Belsom searched the yard, but found no one. The harassed woman tried staying with relatives. The whistler soon followed. And when she went to the home of Belsom’s parents (her then fiancé), the whistler called her mother with a message: “Tell Jackie I know she’s at Herbert’s house”.

On October 1, she and Belsom married. No incident occurred at the ceremony, and the whole thing came to a close. At first, the local sheriff claimed the whole thing was a hoax, even inciting on one occasion that it was an “inside job” and no real danger was ever present. However soon after the sheriff changed his story to say the whistler had been caught, though no charges were ever recorded or names released to the media. Jacquelyn never reported again to the police on the subject. Was the phantom a hoax, or was someone really at the window? Did he give up after the marriage happened, spurned by Jacquelyn’s choice or perhaps afraid he would eventually get caught? It is hard to know. Who was the phantom whistler and why did he choose to terrify Jacquelyn Cadow? We’ll never know.

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